PRIMARY LESSONS: Tuesday's primary election carries importance beyond the candidates who will shape the future of this valley. The ballot will also present an opportunity, for those able to read it, to determine just how many myths have been accepted and how much papier mâché has accumulated around the Tucson body politic.
Judging from the returns on early ballots so far, turnout is expected to be abysmally low. The establishment media will make this look worse than it is by counting all eligible voters, including Republicans and Libertarians (who have no contests and no reason to show up), and Independents who could care even less than those already registered in a political party. Myth No. 1 headed for the potty: allowing Independents to vote in party primaries will raise turnout. Don't count on it this year.
Conventional wisdom says the race is coming down to a contest between former City Councilwoman Molly McKasson, the "neighborhood/environmentalist" candidate, and TEP exec Betsy Bolding, the "business" candidate who's raised the most money. A close race will expose no major political fault lines, but should one of the ladies win big (with a margin of more than 10 percent), those in charge of the losing campaign will have a lot of explaining to do.
We will once again measure the influence of the establishment dailies, as both have endorsed Bolding -- early and big. Hanging it out for McKasson are Pima County Supervisors Raul Grijalva and Sharon Bronson, both of whom sent fund-raising letters for her.
The Ward 4 Democratic primary pits newcomer Debra Johnson against incumbent Shirley Scott with the same business/ neighborhood dynamics as the mayor's race and an even stronger water overlay. Johnson joins McKasson in support of the latest water initiative, again numbered Prop 200, which will be on November's city ballot. Should Johnson, who has just barely applied for matching funds, knock off Scott, the effects will run deeper than Council aide John Macko losing his job.
A Johnson win will be a bellwether for how the water vote will go on the east side and further improve the power base of Bob Beaudry and his political guru adman Terry Pollock. It will also boost the Pima County Interfaith Council, a coalition of church groups which Johnson has worked with in the past. Conversely, should Scott hang on, it bodes well for the anti-Beaudry forces in November.
The dailies split on this one with two of the weirdest endorsements in local political history. The Citizen went with Johnson after explaining how they disagree with her on everything and really agree with Scott, while the Star endorsed Scott and then told us all the stuff they like about Johnson!
Watch Tuesday to see if a few political myths -- and possibly a few political reputations -- explode.
CHOICE WORDS: Life grotesquely imitated fiction -- namely, the black satire Citizen Ruth -- in the last few weeks in Arizona, as a 14-year-old rape victim attempted to get permission to have a late-term abortion. The child, a ward of the state since age 5, when her mother died and her father went to prison, has, by all reports, had a pretty miserable life leading up to this unwanted pregnancy. The state has certainly done a disgraceful job of caring for her.
Although her plight should have remained confidential, somebody leaked information about the case to an anti-abortion attorney -- and at that point, all hell broke loose. Suddenly, Gov. Jane Dee Hull, who had approved allowing the abortion, reversed herself and began a court fight to force the 14-year-old girl to carry the pregnancy to full term. Meanwhile, other politicians started acting like she had put the fetus up for auction on eBay. U.S. Rep. Matt Salmon and former Arizona Attorney General Grant Woods offered $25,000 scholarships, supermarket magnate Eddie Basha offering an undisclosed sum, and even presidential candidate Steve Forbes bleating about the issue.
Fortunately, the Arizona Supreme Court made the right decision to allow the poor child to terminate her pregnancy, even though Arizona's rigid abortion laws are forcing her to travel to Kansas for the procedure.
But the opportunistic clowns who tried to bribe her proved one thing: they care about children right up until they're born. But at that point, all bets -- and bribes -- are off. The tightfisted Arizona Legislature has constantly shortchanged social programs and education in favor of tax cuts that benefit the wealthy and industry. And there are plenty of troubled youth out there who could use some hope for the future -- but that's apparently only available if you conceive a child following a rape.
Our lawmakers should concentrate on making the world a better place for the people who are already here. That might go a long way toward preventing this kind of miserable situation from happening again.
IMAGINARY NUMBERS: Last week, Gov. Jane Dee Hull used her radio show to blast President Bill Clinton for threatening to veto the GOP's absurd $790 billion tax cut. Hull is acting like Congress will actually be able to deliver on its promise to deliver the mother of all tax cuts over the next 10 years -- as if the rosy economic assumptions behind the tax cut have anything to do with reality. Who are they trying to kid?
To begin with, that tax cut requires Congress to stay within certain spending limits to ensure that a surplus actually appears. Guess what? Congress has already spent most of this year's alleged $14 billion surplus. And call us cynical, but we're betting the same thing is going to happen every year in the next decade, even assuming our economy keeps buzzing along at its current rate, which is in no way guaranteed.
With this speech, Hull, who seemed to hold promise as a thinking Republican, has continued a trend she started with her comments about the endangered pygmy owl. She seems more interested in spouting knee-jerk, mindless rhetoric than actually setting reasonable public policy.
IL DUCE LIVES: Pascua Yaqui Tribal Chairman Benito Valencia and two of his council pals are fighting to stifle Democratic processes and political dissent. Valencia and his cronies want to escape recall by claiming that their very own Election Board found the petitions were faulty.
Gutsy citizen Sharon Madril didn't buy it. She asked the Tribal Court to rule on the petition dispute. Valencia's courtroom mouthpiece, Dennis Garcia, incredibly said Madril had no right to go to court because the tribe's constitution does not specifically say that if a dispute arises in a recall petition that resolution could be sought in court.
Earlier this month, a visiting Apache judge from Needles, California, presided at a standing-room-only hearing in which Garcia sought to have Madril's case dismissed. After oddly complaining about the difficulty in traveling, the judge listened to Garcia. But he had to be prodded by Madril's lawyer, Ann Graham-Bergin, to even scan the supposedly faulty petitions.
On the face of it, Graham-Bergin said, the Election Board went outside its authority. Some of the proof: identical petitions -- signed in the same order by the same Pascau Yaqui members -- produced suspicious rulings from the Elections Board. For example, Graham-Bergin said, a petition page for Valencia was ruled valid, while a petition page bearing the same signatures of voters in the same order for a council recall target was ruled invalid. It was unclear what the Elections Board believed about a similarly completed page for another council recall target. A decision is imminent in the case.
Outside, near the tribe's Casino of the Sun, the protest against Chairman Benito Valencia continues -- with a mix of humor and foreboding. One sign called him Mussolini and said he was a "traitor just like your namesake."